behaviour, education, examination, parenting, violence

Why did Anusha collapse after her first SSC exam?

Anusha was one of my favourite students.  She was a very good student, but not the topper, brilliant types. Anusha was a very hardworking, well mannered and studious girl and consistently scored over 90% marks. In addition, she was an excellent dancer. And she was  my best friend’s daughter.

In those days there was a choice of third language in the SSC board system which the student had to choose from their 8th grade. Though most of the good students opted for French, Anusha opted for Sanskrit and when I asked her about her choice, she said that Sanskrit paper carries a bulk of translation passages and that way it is much easier to score than French. She was performing extremely well in school examinations.I would often see her comparing her answers papers with those who had done better than her, writing down notes. Finally the board examination started.

On the first day of examinations, the children had to write two language papers, English and their option language.  That day, about eight thirty in the night, I got a panic striken call from my friend. She was almost in tears as she said, “Anusha is having a breakdown. She is in very bad shape, says that she will not go for examination tomorrow. You are her favourite…Could you please come down to my house?” I  grabbed the keys, dropped my own kids at a neighbours and rushed to her house in a taxi.

When I entered her house, it was like a mad person’s house. Anusha was tossing all her books one by one. Books, clothes and some stuffed toys lay strewn in all the directions. As her mother, father or sister tried in vain to talk to her, she had turned her face to the wall, screaming “Leave me alone. Don’t talk to me”. 

I signalled the family members to go out of that room and walked to her table as if I was there by coincidence.   I stood and looked at her a quietly for few seconds.  After a minute, she whirled around as she took in the silence around her and realised that her family was not there. Seeing me there, she was taken aback and said “Madam , how you are here ?” I said, “Anusha I think I gave you one of my science book for reading. One friend’s daughter needed it urgently. I came to collect it” She looked at me with a puzzled look and said “No Madam. Whatever books I had taken, I had returned to you” I said   “Oh, is it? May be I gave it to some other student. But what is happening here Anusha? Tomorrow is Physics examination and I was expecting so much from you”.

She stood quite her head hung and did not speak.  As I asked more and more questions she burst out crying and said, Madam   I completely messed up my Sanskrit paper.  It was very tough and I feel I did not answer even half the questions correctly. Now all is lost. My whole life is a failure. There is no point in writing any more papers. As she stood shuddering violently, I held her hand. Slowly I calmed her, made her sit and drink some water and I then said, “Anusha,   many times the good students feel that their paper was very bad, but actually they would have done OK. Since you were expecting to score 100% you may be feeling this way. But, why are you refusing to go to exam tomorrow? There are so many papers to write and you can do very well in them and compensate?” She continued desolately, “What is the use madam. Definitely I am going to fail. Then why should I write the remaining papers?” She again started crying.

I racked my brains to see how I could help this poor girl  to continue. I told her about many of my past students who braved examination in the worst situations and did very well.  I told her the case of Lathika, a brilliant student, always a first ranker, who got Chicken pox just two days before her boards exams, and she wrote her papers with that high fever and discomfort, sitting in isolation, in a dirty store room of the school, even without a fan. Then there was   the girl Sujatha, whose  mother passed away just ten days before her final Board examination. I told her,“ See Anusha every year we read  in papers about this brave students who have written  their examinations in worst conditions, battling illness, natural disasters and death. How can you not even try?  What happened  in the previous paper is over and gone.  Now you should focus only on tomorrow’s paper” Anusha  by this time had quietened a bit now. Her mother brought coffee and cookies. After my insistence she took the coffee.

Now she said, “Madam my mind is all confused. I don’t think I would be able to prepare for Physics paper tomorrow” Hoping I had made some headway, I said “Anusha you are so good in Physics and you cannot forget. Let me ask you some questions and see if you know the answers”,.  Then I started asking her very simple questions from her Physics. She answered quickly. I said, “See how fast you are able to answer” Half an  hour  of questioning, she had warmed up and started looking like her usual self.  I  told her,  “Anusha when you get your paper tomorrow, first tell Ganpati  prayer and then look into your papers. This is my lucky pen ,keep it with you. Your exam paper will be easy for tomorrow”  As I left her , I sent up a few prayers myself and came back home at ten thirty.

Next day,as promised I went with Anusha and her mother to drop her in her in the examination hall. With a bit more reassurance, she walked inside the examination hall fairly composed, clutching my “lucky” pen. She did do the paper excellently and the rest was smooth sailing.

When results came in, Anusha had passed with flying colours securing a very high percentage. I was sure she would pursue her dreams in the Science stream as she had often told me she was going to be a Doctor. But to everyone’s amazement, she joined the Arts branch for college.  Much later I heard from her mother that she had become an English professor.

What drove Anusha to that limit of madness on the first day?

A smart all-rounder from a very educated family, …a good dancer, voracious reader..she had some much going for her..but she had not developed any inner strength to face a problem…that made her lose her very sanity to the point of a nervous breakdown for not doing one paper excellently? 

Why could not one family member reassure her and make her calm down?

And what happened that all of sudden, inspite of getting the marks, she suddenly changed her plans from Science group to Arts?

Have any of you parents had ever faced a situation like this? Any  guesses… do put them down in the comments

See you in my next blog.

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